Oral Roberts says he does not think his son, who has been accused of misspending funds at the university the evangelist founded, did anything wrong.
The younger Roberts, a televangelist, was accused along with his wife, Lindsay, of spending money on shopping sprees, home improvements and a stable of horses for their daughters at a time when ORU was badly in debt. Both have denied wrongdoing.
The school had been more than $17 million in debt until billionaire Oklahoma City businessman Mart Green’s family donated a total of $80 million and pledged to restore the public’s trust in the school. Green is now the chairman of the university’s board of trustees.
Oral Roberts said Saturday that the university he founded is in good hands with the family of Mart Green, which saved the university from near-financial ruin more than a year ago.
Roberts, visiting the university for its homecoming celebration, spoke with the Tulsa World between festivities. He last visited the university that bears his name in late 2007, when he addressed students and faculty amid scandal and financial concerns.
Roberts said he never feared that ORU would be forced to close, and that “if God hadn’t sent the Green family, he would have sent somebody else.”
Roberts, 91, said creating the university was a crowning achievement in his life.
“Oral Roberts University is the No. 1 thing that stands out in my heart, because youth are the future, and I knew that,” he said.
He said he didn’t know whether his son, former ORU President Richard Roberts, had misused university money or abused his power, as is alleged in the lawsuits. Oral Roberts said he did not think his son had done wrong.
During the interview, Roberts repeatedly spoke of his gratitude to the Green family, which gave $70 million to ORU to help it regain financial stability. Another gift of $10 million was announced last month. Green, who is now the chairman of ORU’s board of trustees, has steered the university toward financial transparency and a model of shared governance.
Roberts said he embraced the transition to shared governance and praised ORU’s faculty and students for wanting to help decide how the university is run.
In a speech Saturday afternoon at the rededication of ORU’s iconic prayer tower, Roberts said he felt the presence of God as soon as he stepped on campus.
Roberts said he built the prayer tower in the middle of the campus so the presence of God could not be escaped. He would visit the tower whenever he faced a difficult situation, and once spent three straight days and nights there, he said.